This poor blog has suffered from major neglect, as has my greenhouse this year. There has been so much going on here at the Homestead and at work that my spare time is at a premium. Something had to give, and unfortunately, it’s been this blog, gardening, and food preserving.
Spending 50-60 hours a week at work (not counting the hour commute each way) does not leave much time for my Homesteading duties. So for this year at least, it is not MY greenhouse. It is officially “Herm’s greenhouse.” If it wasn’t for my ex, there would be nothing growing! I did some planting in there this spring after clearing the beds of their winter vegetation. I also take care of the weeding when I have time. But the seed starts and pest/disease control has been all Herm, and I am very grateful for all his hard work. He also got all the hummingbird feeders filled and put up, with a few just outside the camper window so we can enjoy watching them up close.
When I am home, nearly every spare moment of my time has been spent working with Mike on his new mycology business. I have been having a great time brainstorming some incredible ideas with my boys. Mike has been writing grow guides, which I have been editing and finessing for him. He has had some very positive feedback from local businesses regarding his products and we are very excited to be starting this grand entrepreneurial adventure. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a link to his website, Abundance Mushroom Company. New customers receive 50% off their first order, and you can get everything you need to grow your own mushrooms at home! It would be a great homeschool project, as well.
Now that the warmer weather is here and it isn’t so dreary anymore (I just cannot get motivated when it’s cold and barren), I have dusted off the Sony and have been taking some pictures. I have always loved taking photographs of things close up, and am finally taking the time to learn a few of the basics of macro photography. I definitely have a lot to learn, but I’m having a lot of fun getting out and visiting with my plant and insect friends!
I have a sad confession to make: I have not set foot into my greenhouse in probably six weeks. Oh, I planted all my winter greens: Radishes by the dozen, all kinds of lettuces and Asian greens. Kale by the yard. Everything was thriving. Hearty salads and cooked greens were just around the corner.
Enter Omicron. Suddenly, EVERYONE needed emergent dialysis. Our poor little community hospital was simply overrun. And, like everywhere else, terribly understaffed. My coworker and I worked basically round-the-clock for six or seven weeks. In one two-week pay period, I worked 130 hours. That doesn’t include my two-hour round trip. When the weather was too bad to drive, or I was too exhausted to drive safely, I would get some blankets from the linen cart and catnap in one of our dialysis chairs at the hospital. Wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s been a long winter. My ex has been watering the greenhouse plants and putting row covers on during the cold snaps, but I’m fairly certain I’m going to find most of my veggies are well past their prime. The greens have likely bolted. I’m sure I’ll be able to salvage a fair amount, but a lot of it will be destined for the compost (To see my update after I finally gathered the courage to tour the greenhouse, click here).
Last Fall, I built a lovely mini greenhouse for starting my seeds. I haven’t even pulled out my seed packets, and it’s March. Rationally, I understand that a 60-year-old woman working 65-hour weeks isn’t going to have anything left to give during her down time. Many of my days off consisted of two or three long naps and lots of cell phone casino games. Any lucid awake time has been spent working with Mike to get his business off the ground, planning our next steps as a Homestead, and revising our long-term goals. Incredibly time-consuming.
Yet deep down, I still get twinges of guilt, of self-criticism. I feel that I’ve been lazy rather than exhausted. I tell myself I should have prioritized my time better.
However, if I was to be completely honest with myself, I would admit that the hours of work that I put into tending the winter greenhouse is a lot of time expended for minimal returns. While my family does eat the veggies I grow, our kitchen facilities are such that it is quite difficult to process large quantities of the produce. A lot of it gets wasted and ends up in compost. Last winter, when I had more free time, I would take the excess, wash and bag it, and share it with my coworkers. This winter, five uninterrupted hours of sleep felt like a vacation. I have come to the conclusion that it is time to downsize the gardening operation a bit.
My blog posts had ground to a halt as well. I have so much I want to share here and have simply been unable to even consider working on the new projects I have planned. The worst of the Omicron wave seems to be subsiding now, though, and work seems to have settled down for now. Now that Spring seems to be knocking at the door, I am looking forward to getting out with my cameras again and writing a lot more.
Making Way For The New
As a family unit, our thoughts of what long-term financial stability and self-sufficiency means to us have evolved and changed greatly. The plans we had for this property when we bought it five years ago are radically different from the direction we are headed now.
The mushroom culture/substrate business that my son is preparing to launch has potential for great success. With online sales platforms and social media, his reach to potential clients will be global. It is a grossly underserved market with crazy recent growth.
As we transition to a radically different version of “Homesteading,” the property we have now just isn’t going to work for us long-term. So on top of all the other activity going on, we are working on lining up all our financial ducks so we can begin looking for a new property. We love our community and are all adamant about staying in the immediate area. Also, we are all adamant about having a real house with a real inside toilet. Living large.
Anyway, this is what has been going on these past several weeks here at the Homestead. As the weather warms up and I (hopefully) have more time, I am looking forward to sharing a lot more here. I am also looking to try dipping my toe into the YouTube game at some point with some instructional videos.
P.S. I’ve noticed a handful of new followers lately. To my new followers: Welcome! I appreciate all my followers and thank you all for supporting my blog.
The mushroom lab is complete! Mike has some micelium started. When it is mature, he will be hanging up his shingle on Etsy, selling mycelium syringes and substrate to fellow mycologists. We are still waiting on some much-needed supplies, but like everything else, there are “supply chain issues.” Soon, though.
This lab is the culmination of over a decade of dreaming and planning. So many times we were discouraged, thinking it would never happen. The false starts, the lack of funds; it has truly been an uphill struggle.
Then one day a couple months ago a random thought completely unrelated to mushrooms led to a flurry of manifestations. Brilliant ideas started coming. Outside-of-the-box thinking helped us to work around the obstacles in our path, and suddenly it all just fell into place. And here we are, soon-to-be entrepreneurs!
It’s the end of January, and we are chomping at the bit to get this business started. Fortunately, the lab isn’t just about mushrooms. Mike and I have had so much fun playing with different ferments while waiting to launch. So far we have experimented with:
Lacto Fermented baby carrots
Lacto Fermented garlic cloves
We have had many successes, and a few spectacular failures. Most heartbreaking was the loss of our kefir grains. Our grains were multiplying and we were able to make a gallon of kefir at a time. Some close-to-spoiling milk tainted the grains, and they took on that “off” flavor, making subsequent batches equally nasty. We just received some new grains on Wednesday and are starting over again. Keeping a family of 7 in kefir is quite a challenge.
Tepache is a Mexican fermented pineapple drink, and it is awesome and healthy! The best part is only the skin and core of the pineapple is used, along with some spices and a bit of brown sugar, so it is nearly free to make. Mike has designed an awesome system for brewing, which makes the entire process super easy. I am considering a YouTube video on tepache making.
We had a lot of fun making wine. We lost a batch of white wine because we were keeping it too warm. Being beginners, we started off making wine using just frozen juice from the grocery store. I am so looking forward to using fresh fruit from the homestead: Blackberries, mulberries, and elderberries are on the roster this summer. Mike racked off the first batch into two one-gallon jugs. We bottled one jug and left the other one for an extra week/10 days. The difference in flavor and clarity was amazing. It’s a simple dry grape table wine, nothing fancy. But quite tasty. We are looking forward to honing our skills and making some awesome wine. As soon as we get a quart of local honey, we will be venturing into making mead, which is wine made with honey.
Lacto Fermented Baby Carrots and Garlic
Next to lacto fermented sauerkraut, the baby carrots are a family favorite. Lacto fermented veggies are packed with healthy probiotics for gut health. The fermenting process not only keeps the produce from losing any nutrients (as opposed to cooking or canning), it actually makes the nutrients more bioavailable. I have not fermented garlic all by itself before. Can’t wait to start using it to boost our immunities.
Update: I just checked the garlic. The entire lab was filled with its pungent aroma. Absolutely perfect. The baby carrots are crunchy, slightly sour, and delicious. The new kefir? Not so much. It was spoiled again. I think we may have an issue with fluctuating temps in the lab. But as Ma Ingalls said: “There is no great loss without some small gain.” Still, though, out of everything we’ve been doing the kefir is everyone’s favorite. So there are seven very disappointed people here on the Homestead.
Many people are familiar with beet kvass, a fermented drink made from beets. Another traditional kvass is made from rye bread. Quite honestly, we didn’t care for it very much. At some point we are going to try again with some homemade rye bread and see if we can’t improve it the next time.
Rye and Sourdough Bread
I am especially excited about being able to make bread again. This rye bread recipe was my uncle’s from when he was a baker in the 60s-70s. I felt so honored to be able to bring this family recipe back to life, especially as my lovely Uncle Louis had recently passed.
The sourdough bread was a bit more challenging. I don’t think it will be a part of my regular repertoire, as I simply don’t have the time right now to nurture the starter on a daily basis. If I had a full kitchen and was baking bread several times a week, I would definitely incorporate the sourdough, but it’s just too much right now with my job. I can go several days without having a chance to tend to it. Sourdough bread is a fairly complicated endeavor, especially when working in a makeshift kitchen. My two loaves were flat and ugly, but quite delicious.
February should be quite a busy month. Mike will soon be getting the last few things he needs to launch his Etsy shop. I have done some basic setup on Etsy for him, but we still have a lot of work to do on it before it goes live. We will also be revamping his Facebook page. And then there’s Instagram, which I truly don’t understand. TikTok, Spotify, YouTube……it will definitely be a learning process.
My granddaughter received a neat little Vlogging camera for Christmas. I am hoping to borrow it and start making some simple “how to” videos for YouTube. Again, a big learning curve for me. I am at the age where I simply hand my electronic devices over to my kids to set them up for me.
We will be working on some more wine soon. There is a scoby in the fridge just waiting for us to start some kombucha. And my winter greenhouse has been terribly neglected. I will be venturing in there today after a two-week absence; I should have a ton of kale, greens, radishes, and beets to pick.
It is nearly time to start my seeds for spring. I have a mini greenhouse within the big greenhouse with shelving, heat pads, and lights. It’s hard to believe that spring is just around the corner already.
There are just so many different projects here in the pipeline for us. Lack of time seems to be our biggest obstacle right now. There is so much we want to do, and yet there are still only 24 hours in a day. I look forward to the day I am able to retire and spend my days having fun, doing all the things I am passionate about.
If you have any questions or comments about any of our projects, I would love to chat with you about them. Please contact me and I will be happy to discuss what we are doing here on the Homestead!